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tv   Today in Washington  CSPAN  September 14, 2010 6:00am-7:00am EDT

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-- "what's right with islam." feisal will speak for about 20 minutes from this podium and then we will have a brief conversation. ? sf anyone has anything like a cell phone or anything proximating a cell phone, if you would please turnette off. not just put it on vibrate because iter into fears. we'll be forever grateful. . .
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jie we come together at a time of great crisis and danger. what began as a dispute over the community center in lower
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manhattan has grown into a larg larger controversy between my be loved religion and my beloved country. i regret that some have misunderstood our intentions i am deeply distressed. despite the disappointments. this is much i'm greatful for.
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to you are president, mr. president, i thank you for your support, for speaking out forcefully and repeatedly on behalf of religious tolerance and values that make our country great. i am greatful for making peace a priority in your first term. for those who voice opinions. i am greatful. you affirm my belief in the decency of the american people. i realize among the critics are some who have lost loved ones.
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with great resolve to fight agains the radical philosophies that have been used to fight geps these acts. my goal here is two fold. first, to reach out to my brothers and sisters of different faiths to sxhan and share my love of my religion and second to reach out to my muslim brothers and sisters around the world to explain my love of america. allow me to begin by telling you my story. i came america by boat when i was 17 years old. we sailed into new york harbor on a sunny and cold winter day in 1965, three days before
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christmas. i remember seeing the stat u of liberty for the first time. i remember admiring her colors >> i was born in dwat to egyptian parents. my father was a religious father. he was active promoting understanding between different religions. coming from a country that was
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mostly muslim, i found this country without religion, even anti-religious. in the 1960's, religion was found to be passe even a crutch for the simple minded. this was shocking to me, extraordinary. i thought this place sure is different. i received my bachelor's degree, married and held several different jobs. i am a normal american.
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i know that these rights were won by the blood of brave american soldiers. my own niece currently serves in the united states army. i know this country was founded on the restrictions. they wanted something better. freedom of speech. separation of church and state. these were among my earliest lessons. in america, we do protect those differences. we assemble to pray, chant and recite our skrip turs or simply to come together to draw together and draw strength
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that choice forced me to think about who i was, what i am and what i chose to be and as given me an appreciation for the country that provides these freedoms. you could say i found my faith in this country. for me, islam and america are oregonicly bound together. this is not my story alone. the american way of life has helped many muslims make a conscious decision to embrace their faith.
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that choice is precious that is why america is precious. i have seen that the country that was so profoundly anti-religious is really row foundly religious. the founding fathers were men of faith. they affirmed their most sak red spiritual val use. these documents are expressions of a religious ideal rooted in the commandments and principles of the throw faiths practices by the people of the book. jews, christians and muslims.
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they even printed on our money, "in god we trust." i am an imam or prayer leader of a mosque in tribecca. our people come from all over the world and every walk of life. on september 11, a number tragically lost their lives. we gathered together and slowly rebuilt lower manhattan. i belong to this neighborhood. i'm a devout muslim. i pray five times a day,
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sometimes more if i can. i am also a proud american citizen. let no one forget that. i vote in elections and play taxes. i pledge allegiance to the flag and i am a giant's fan. it is your story and that of your parents and grandparents.
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american muslims have enriched this country. many thousands of african muslims were brought here as slaves. this became their home. from the music of blues and jazz, they took up the cause for freedom. we witnessed the rise of muslims in the african-american people. from then to the sudanese in minnesota to the people in queens, they are americans.
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it's about who we are and who we want to be as americans when we fast, pray, donate to charities, observe our holidays, we observe the deepest values of our faith traditions. other faiths have found themselves the targets. in time, each group has overcome these challenges. our core values have been affirmed. we must overcome. we shall overcome.
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now it is our turn as muslims to drink from this cup. let me now address the subject of extremeism. every religion in the world has extremists. sadly, islam is among them. all faiths have among their members those who twist their core values. these people from all over the world absolutely find this ab hornt. let there be no mistake, islam rejects the killing of innocent people. terrorists corrupt the meaning of our faith. in no way do they represent our religion. we must not let them define us.
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radical extremists would have us believe in a theory of a world-wide battle between muslims and non-muslims. some thinkers have furthered that idea. that idea is false. the real battle front. the real battle we must wage together today is not between muslims and non-muslims. it's between moderates of all the faith traditions against extremists of all the faith traditions. we must not let the extremists, hijack. the media that only fuels a greater extremeism.
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it's a greater extreme cycle and we must break it by creating a coalition of moderates to combat the extremists. i seek your help. when irresponsible individuals are sum onned to the media equate muslims with anti-americanism. all of us are a blieged to refute it. for 35 years, i have been explaining the favenlg islam at schools and universities and yes in mosques too. in resent years, i've travelled abroad reach out to worlds.
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skeptics might ask why spend time in dialogue. talking can be powerful. general understanding can only happen when there is hon eggs ti and open heart when issues are commercialized or used for fodar, the division is greater than ever. haven't we seen how hurtful and destructive the language can be. what happens right here, right
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now in this city, in our city matters. it matters mover than ever. the way we seek to reconcile our differences is res nating all over the world. my fourth trip representing the u.s. government and american people. on two occasions i was asked to go on this by the obama administration. these trips are important. people all over the world admire our freedoms and really want
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them for themselves. as money american and as a muslim, i believe and i've been told i can make and have made an important contribution by serving as a messenger and a bridge by explaining what life is like in the united states and helping clear up the many miss concepts and false ideas. >> it has been asked, is there really a need for an islamic center in lower manhattan? is it worth all this fire storm? the answer is yes. why? this center will be a place for all faiths to come together and
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give honor to the muslim community. the world will be watching what we do here. i offer you my pledge, we live up to our ideals. that is why, eight years ago, i founded a multifaith initiative. the cordoba initiative named after the time in spain when jews, christian and muslims joined together. forming this partnership between faith traditions to build a new cordoba inspiring the initiative
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in our projects are the two commandments, the two most important commandments at the heart of the jewish, christian and muslim faith, to love the lord our god with all of our hearts, minds and souls and all of our strength. the second as jesus said, co-equal to the first, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. let us there for reject those who use this crisis let uz protest the use of holy symbols
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for the use of political text or distaste. i call upon each of you to think of what you can do to make a difference. to the heads of government. some have already reached out to me. make the spirit of cordoba multinational an share it with the world. reject those who would sell america's soul for short term gain and public opinion. to the media, campaign and terrorism is fought with arm ament. it is about winning hearts and minds. you can fuel the radicals or you are limit their air time.
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to the business community. do i need to remind you there is really greater profit in prosperity. to my fellow faith leaders, many of whom i see here. let uz explore this dialogue. i call upon to you reach out to each other in your communities. open your homes and break bread together and extend your heart in the nature of friendship and good will. in closing, i want to remind you of an incident in 2008 of a man named collin powell. in 2008, he talked about seeing a photo essay of american troops
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serving abroad. one picture was of a mother grieving in arlington national cemetery. you could see the writing on the headstone. it gave his awards, a purple heart, bronze star, he died in iraq. he was only 20 years old. then on the top of the headstone, it didn't have a cross or a star of david. it had the crescent and star of islam. he was an american from my home state of new jersey. he was 14 years old when 9/11 happened. he couldn't wait until he was old enough to serve his country. he gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life.
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the photo came out around the time when an issue came out about president obama's faith. a question still arisen today. he is a christian. always been a christian. then general powell said, so what if he were a muslim. is there something wrong with being a muslim in this country? our answer then and now is no, there is nothing wrong with being a muslim in america. our answer is that there is everything right with being a muslim in america. i pray to the almighty god,
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creator of us all to bless you, bless america, bless all nations on the earth and bless all of those committed to peace on earth. as he has said, blessed are the peace makers. amen and thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you for an extremely thoughtful statement. i'll ask one or two questions about the immediate issue and take a step back and ask one or two about the larger and open it up to you all. the other day when you were asked about this, you said, if i knew this would happen, that
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this would cause this kind of pain, i would not have done it. >> given that, why don't you undo it or at least do it differently from this point on? >> we are exploring all options as we speak right now. we are working through what will be a solution. >> if you were to go ahead with it in its current form or something like it and given the larger mission, what sorts of things could do you to heal the risks you yourself refer to. what sort of options do you see for yourself to try to build
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bridges to deal with some of the problems that have clearly been caused or man ifested in themselves? the last question in which all of this is contact you'llized is how do we improve muslim relations. all of my work and projects are based on doing that. for many years, people have always asked, where is the voice of the moderate muslims, where are they?
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in every crisis delivers an opportunity. as a challenge that we have together as faith leaders, opinion leaders, think tanks is how do we employ ourselves together within the window of time that we have to do it so we can leverage the voice of the moderates and address the causes that have fuelled but enabled moderates that have waged this war. that's what this represents. if you zoom out and look at the shape of the forest. that is the cal queue las we are undergoing right now. i will go to the 36,000 feet level in a moment but let me ask a question about the ground
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view. what has been the title wave of friends and people saying, look, we are here to help you. the problem is someone with a football franchise and everyone wants to be on the team and i have to find the best 11 players. >> is comprimise one of the tools you are prepared to deploy? >> everything is on the table.
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ok. i will let others -- something tells me you are not prepared. i've had some background in negotiations. there are times you don't want to get into detail about what is on the table because that doesn't advance the cause. you have to decide how much to be specific about and not to. your cal. >> i wanted to say, we are really focussed on solving it you said the battlefield today is not between muslims and non-muslims but it's between moderates of all faiths.
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on one level, i think that's right but on other level, i think that skirts the issue. you said 99% plus of all muslims are not terrorists but 99% of the world's most dangerous terrorists are muslims. you wrote a book about what's right with islam, what about what is wrong with islam. what is wrong? >> that's an important question. a number of things. political, socio economic,
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ethnic. we have looked at the underlying causes and unpacked them and looked at the project to help address these core issues. by the way, we muslims are the biggest victims of terrorism conducted by these radicals. there's a history where we have these regimes these are among
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the issues. the sense that we muslims have to help each other just like during the calmest regime, this is a sense of a common bond. we have to understand the dynamic solution. we understood the science of going to the moon three generations again. we need to deploy the solutions what is it muslims can do?
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address the issue. because we are in a globalized world today, what happens hassan impact on what happens in the muslim world. look at the danish cartoon crisis. it was purely media created
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managing the forces. it is not about fixing but about managing. there is that pastor in florida that has gone ahead with a burning. people would talk about that. this is not a just if i indication or license to have
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conferences and talk about the issue. talking about what players should do to win a game. in order to win, you have to be players in the field planning to push back against that. it is as much a threat to the
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society. they are going back to egypt people were mad and angry. a lot of people were starving. it impacts our society. they are miserable and want something better. we don't know how to give it to them. radical extremists. they love the fact that the media gives them this coverage. the fact of the matter is that
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the way things happen right now, we have a situation where the extremists can hijack the a againeda. for all our intelligence and smart, we haven't figured out how to quiet them down. >> i do go on. i will use uncharacteristic restraint. let's move on and ask one question and keep it short. >> also associated with ethan alan. i have had the pleasure of knowing the imam for many years.
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maybe it's time to take a time out and hold it up to have these kind of discussions. you are doing a good job here. these kinds of discussions are needed in my 45 years, i have never seen the kind of discourse taking place in this country. and in the opportunity for you to skooem in this environment. >> thank you. our devices have been looking at every option.
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>> i don't hear you. >> it was one of my students that persuaded you to go to the pages of the "new york times" last year. you mentioned several times the analogy of building a team together to build a coalition of moderates. what would your dream team look like? we need opinion leaders.
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journalists and religious leaders we have sustained the game and the opportunity which many people have seen is that like a football game where everybody is losing, the ball is caught in the stadium. we are right now thinking of how to put together the structure to enable us to deploy more people
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and move the boat forward to manning the crisis in a much better way. >> i like football as much as the next guy but a hail mary pass is too much of a met ephore. >> you speech much of planning. in your early days of planning, did you anticipate the crisis it might create? we did not. when the news become public, nobody objected. what would you have done differently in this crisis now?
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we would have tried to do it differently. we would have had different stake holders. maybe not even doing it at all. i'm a retired lauren 50 years ago last night. a candidate for the president of the united states that would become the first catholic of the president stood up speaking to a group of prod stant ministers pleading for religious tolerance for the position of the catholic church. like you, he had to face a
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hostile questions and a wealth of misinformation. the words are part of a problem. i don't feel that this is necessarily deliberate. people don't note difference between islam or jihadist.
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i don't think people are being extremist when they oppose a jihadist center but can you explain why a muslim center is not the same as a jihadist center. >> unfortunately, i cannot run for a u.s. president since i was not born in this country. that is a good question. there is a lot of unawareness.
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that is why i ask you to read my book and understand what are the causes if you study the threology, you will not find the sources. the mrobs were due to an imbalance what happens is religious gets sucked in. combatting or competing. to be able to find ways.
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part of the discourse right now on this issue in the relationship between the west and the muslim world >> on the second row. >> i have a question for richard you asked what muslims should do to stop extremists. we have people who asked a religious group to move their place of worship to avoid hurting the feelings of other
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people. it seems like we are setting an environment up and we are breeding extremists. what does the council on foreign relations plan to do to help? i would say, the council does not take a position. this is not a request about rights. the right is clear. the question here is given the larger a againeda he personally has is the exercise of rights. how does one go about exercising the rights while serving the
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larger interest and reducing risk between the united states and the rest of 9 world we are where we are where we are. the policy question is moving forward. we have passed the point that is about rights and the existence of them. one always has the option to serve in the a agained a our
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example speaks loudly to the whole world what happens here, what non-muslims do here and say here happens will have ripple affects by whomever is doing it. >> you are a teacher. i'm also a teacher. dealing with the asemitry
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appears as a form of desecration to those who think it is halloed ground. how do you take this to from the teacher to the student. >> it is absolutely disinagain uous that that block is hallowed ground. with a strip joint around the corner and betting parlors. it doesn't add. let's clarify that miss perception.
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we need to create a platform where the voice is am tied. those who teach the moderation will be heard. i have been successful and have proven with people from my
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community. i know which verses to quote. i know how muslims speak. the koran tells the prophet we do not send you except to be a mercy to a nation. in we are not a moresy, we are not following in the foot steps of a prophet. one last statement. >> there was a banner behind the state that said stop sher reallah before it stops you.
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this could be minor things like women refusing to unveil themselves to major things. the history was a place of muslim conquest. the fundamental rights >> the quality of fundamental faith. endowed by certain rights. the creator gave these rights to
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us. it's a religious concept. centuries before these words were penned. all of the law is intended to up hold six fundamental objectives. the protection of life, human dignity, religion, family, property and intelect. what do we do to pursue our happiness? we get married to our loved ones, speak material well being and seek to practice our faith religion. we practice the law already when we add hire to diet laws whchlt
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we give our estates, we are consistent with the american law and islamic law. when we pray and fast, these are all commandments of the law. 90% isfully come patable. it is consistent with american constitution law. the areas are small and minor. by the way, it has been said from the beginning of time. in minority, at the time of prophet. they said wherever muslims are minority, they are required to follow the laws of the land. there is more i can say about
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this but not at the time being. >> we will not settle all matters thank you and i apologize to those we didn't get to.
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